My Week 242: Swearing an Oath

Recently, the secret agency took on a group of summer students. They’re a delightful bunch, young, enthusiastic and eager to learn. I like to check in on them every so often to make sure they’re doing ok, and last week one of them said to me, “Yes, it’s been great so far. But it was so weird–did you know, I had to swear an oath to the Queen?” And I was like, “Oh yeah–we all did that. It’s no biggie–it just means that if she needs you, you have to fly over to England. Sometimes she gets lonely. A couple of years ago, I got the call and when I got there, all she wanted was someone to listen to her gripe about Philip. Apparently he snores and spends WAY too long in the bathroom.” The girl looked at me in shock so I had to explain that I was kidding. But it reminded of me of how I reacted when I first hired at the secret agency and took the oath myself…

Because I just saw Avengers’ Endgame.

Before I started the job, I had to meet first with my Human Resources contact to fill in a lot of paperwork. We were filling in the usual forms—contact information, computer log-ins, keys, and other stuff, when she said, “Oh—although we’re a secret agency, you’re technically a public servant, so you have to take an oath of allegiance.” She said this kind of matter-of-factly, like I took oaths every day. (This is the beginning of me going off on a very long tangent, so sit back and enjoy.) Actually, I HAD just taken an oath recently, because that December, I fought a traffic ticket. I got nailed by a red light camera going through an intersection on the red light. BUT, to be fair, I was only going 40 km/hour, and didn’t think it was right that I had to pay almost $400 for NOT running a red light, but more like sauntering through it—honestly, I just didn’t see it, which I know is a lousy excuse, but I felt like someone needed to know that I am NOT by nature a red-light runner. So I went to traffic court, where they give you the option of swearing to tell the truth by either putting your hand on a bible, or by just saying it VERY SINCERELY without the bible. I opted for the latter, since I don’t think that anyone’s god particularly cares whether or not I lie in traffic court. Plus, they had a picture of my SUV and my licence plate actually IN the intersection where the light is clearly red, so there would be no point in lying anyway, since I was caught dead to rights. What could I possibly say? “Your Honour, this picture is obviously photoshopped. Your James Bond-ish hightech team is super-clever, but that’s not my truck.”? Long story short, it turns out I didn’t even need to be apologetic, because before I got to say anything, the court officer immediately announced, “We’re reducing your fine to $150.” I felt like he kind of stole my thunder, but I was in no position to complain. Then I had to go in front of the judge and plead guilty, but I qualified it thusly, “Guilty, your honour, but I didn’t mean to do it.” And the judge dismissed the case “with costs” and I wondered if that would also work for more serious crimes, like “Yes, your honour, I stole the puppy from the pet store, but I didn’t mean to do it. Look, he’s so snuggly” and the judge would be like “I completely understand. Give me one hundred dollars. So what are you going to call him?” But that would lead to anarchy, with people stealing puppies everywhere and whatnot, and also I would call him Alistair.

Anyway, so there I was, wondering what kind of oath the Human Resources person was talking about. Was it an oath where I promised not to look at porn or run an online dating service on my work computer? Because I have no problem with that kind of oath, since I have no interest in doing either, and can’t imagine what kind of person WOULD think this is OK to do at work. But wait—it was NOT that kind of oath. It was a pledge of allegiance to the Queen. Not a queen like Guinevere or Latifah, or the band Queen, or even a Disney Queen (by the way, I just googled Disney Queens and one of the search hits was “Why Drag Queens are better role models than Disney Queens”. I am DEFINITELY going back to read that one later.) No, it was THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND. Actually, I had a choice—I could either pledge my allegiance to “the Queen and all her heirs in the eyes of god”, or I could just pledge my allegiance to old Lizzy herself. So I chose the latter, again on the premise that I don’t believe that anyone’s god particularly cares about my relationship with an aging monarch. But the pledge was very vague, and I didn’t know what the ramifications of all this might be. What exactly are my responsibilities? If she commands my presence in England as one of her loyal subjects will she pay for the flight, or is that just one of the expenses that go along with being one of her servants? If she gets in a Twitter war with the Queen of Jordan, do I have to post nice things about her in her defence? Or worse, post mean things about the Queen of Jordan (who seems like a kind of cool queen herself)? Babysit all those grandkids? Walk the Corgis? So I guess the next time she’s having trouble picking out a hat for the Queen’s Ball or whatever, I might have to be there to help out. I mean, I took an OATH.

I picked out that hat.